Achieving Optimal Performance: Positive Thinking – 3rd in a Series

Positive Thinking

“The mind is like a fertile garden, it will grow anything you wish to plant, beautiful flowers or weeds. Do not allow negative thoughts to enter your mind, for they are the weeds that strangle confidence”. – Bruce Lee

Negative thinking creates mental and physical resistances that greatly hinder your performance, on and off the court. Each of us carries around a mental blueprint of self that is based on a rigid belief system formed by past performances. Even the best players carry around internal signs that say things like: “Your serve is weak”, “You can’t handle pressure”, etc.

These deeply ingrained beliefs and attitudes can be changed through the power of positive thinking. A major part of positive thinking is having a positive self-image. In the Inner Game of Tennis,,Tim Gallway writes, “I know of no single factor that more greatly affects our ability to perform than the image we have of ourselves.”  Self image is an ongoing conversation within our minds. The voices in the conversation are the voices from the people who raised you, telling you what you should think about yourself. In addition to the messages you received as a child, you also have messages you receive as an adult from loved ones, bosses, colleagues and even the media. All of this adds up to a lot of unproductive ways of thinking.

Because self-esteem is something that you have learned, not some sort of innate genetic trait, it is possible to retrain your thoughts. How? Positive thinking conveys the language of affirmation to the body. Affirmations are strong, positive statements confirming either what is already true or has the potential to become true. Notice how much stronger you feel when you replace “I hate” with “I love”, “I can’t, with I can”, and “I won’t, with I will”. Write these affirmations down on index cards and place them in an area where you see them on a regular basis, like the bathroom mirror or in your tennis bag.

You have to stop letting other people have control over the way you think about yourself. Learn to make your own choices of how you perceive yourself. Nobody is in a position to make judgments about you, because nobody knows you like you do. As soon as you shut all critical voices out, including your own, your self image will improve. You will start to feel positive, accepted, and significant. Perceive yourself through your own eyes, not the eyes of people who judged you as a child. Move away from negative restrictive thinking and into close harmony with the reality of positive possibilities.

Allowing yourself to think positive does not mean you’re ignoring the difficulties of an event or circumstance. Positive thinking is self-direction, not self-deception. Life’s difficulties and negative occurrences often become lessons that show us how to forge ahead.


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